The lights are on
When the New Super Mario Bros. series debuted nearly eight years ago, Nintendo promised a classic and nostalgic look back at Mario's 2D platforming roots. The first installment was received with great praise and sales; Nintendo's focus on nostalgia for its advertising worked and rightfully so. The series offered classic sidescrolling gameplay with new power-ups and modern mechanics (such as the triple jump) and melded it all into a formula that worked.
With every installment that followed, the nostalgia moniker began to fade while the implementation of innovative ideas remained at a near stand still; New Super Mario Bros. Wii offered four player cooperation and New Super Mario Bros. 2 gave the player the ground breaking opportunity to gather as many coins as possible. While it did offer a lot more than 2 had, New Super Mario Bros. U left me with a desire for something more. Much more.
Nintendo's key launch game for the Wii U, Mario U's biggest innovation is the utilization of the Wii U gamepad not for controlling Mario or any of the other players but for creating platforms and halting enemies for your friends who are actually having fun playing the game. It's a neat idea if there are five people around that want to get in on some 2D Mario action but I cannot fathom why anybody would want to play in Boost Mode for any other reason than to just "check out how it is." Boost Mode can also be used to help you out with all your speed running needs but good luck convincing your friend to sit down and waste time just so he could poke the gamepad to make useless platforms that you probably won't even use anyway because none of the levels are designed with Boost Mode in mind.
The core game revolves around a gripping tale of woe, loss, and redemption where Mario and friends cross fire, ice, and valley to overcome not just the hellfire Bowser inflicts but the doubts and darkness within the heroes' heart themselves. JUST KIDDING! It's about rescuing stupid Peach again but this time everything looks like Super Mario World!
Actually the aesthetics in the game are really gorgeous. The art style of the backgrounds show off the theme of a modern Super Mario World that the developers intended to achieve. The levels, Accorn Plains and The Painted Swampland in particular, display a potential in creativity that I hoped to see throughout every aspect of the game. Unfortunately, everything in the foreground and all of the character models look just like they were ripped out from the Mario Wii and glazed over with a shinier finish.
Despite all of my complaints, Mario U does give the player a solid platformer. The final levels are tough especially if you're trying for a 3 star coin run (which is the only true way to play the game) and call for some quick thinking and tricky jumping. I replayed Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World before getting my hands on Mario U and found the difficulty to be on par and at times even harder than those Nintendo classics.
New Super Mario Bros. U stays true to the Mario formula, perhaps too true. The strategic platforming and nostalgic homages are held down by static innovation and it's apparent need to play it safe. If you've never played a New Super Mario Bros. game is definitely worth a buy as it is, without a doubt, the best in the series but if you're looking for a unique experience that truly builds upon the classic side-scrolling foundation then you best take your hopes and dreams elsewhere because Mario U is just the same old Mario game you've been playing for eight years.
Gameplay:7/10Reused mechanics and virtually nothing new brought to the table. The core Mario game remains solid.
Playability:10/10Feels just as great as it it always had. Wiimote waggling to spin jump has been put to a trigger input.
Camera: 10/10Great panning in and out for visual emphasis and stays with the character throughout.
Fun:8/10Questionable cooperative play and reused gameplay mechanics but otherwise a joyful platform experience.
Lasting Appeal:10/10Plenty of extras collectibles to gain, secrets to discover, and new modes other than the single player to sink your teeth into.
Graphics:7.5/10The graphics look that they were copy-and-pasted straight from the Wii. The backgrounds are the only sign of artistic and graphical power. The HD makes the game look more colorful and vibrant.
Difficulty:10/10The beginning world is very Baby Mode easy but the final few levels see it that you discover what true hell is.
Sound:5/10The memorable chimes and jingles are dragged down with uninspired tunes and awkward Mario vocals.
Flow:10/10The game won't halt or stop you on your way kick Bowser's butt.
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